and snowboarders have replaced the assortment of
prehistoric critters that once called Snowmass,
snowflakes swirling and white-spackled slopes glistening,
it’s not hard to imagine a few Ice Age mammoths
trundling through this winter wonderland.
they’d take care to dodge the folks on skis and
snowboards who have replaced the assortment of prehistoric
critters that once called Snowmass home.
was a long time ago, of course.
workers building a dam near Snowmass Village uncovered a
mammoth tusk in 2010. Crews from the Denver Museum of
Nature & Science zipped up to take a look and
ultimately uncovered a treasure trove of fossils up to
150,000 years old. They nicknamed the excavation the
"Snowmastadon Project," and before it was done
they had found the bones of several mammoths, mastodons, a
rare giant ground sloth, an ancient camel, beavers,
otters, a giant bison and more.
far as we know, none was wearing skis.
then Snowmass has rebranded its annual Chili Pepper &
Brew Fest in June to the Snowmass Mammoth Fest and opened
a small storefront exhibit in the village where you can
touch a mastodon tooth, watch a video and ogle a
half-sized wooden mammoth skeleton.
or not, these days most folks still come to Snowmass to
ski or play in the snow, and the Colorado resort has
plenty of terrain on which to do that. It’s big —
3,362 acres big. It’s also within a short shuttle bus
ride of three other resorts — Aspen, Aspen Highlands and
newbie-friendly Buttermilk, which will once again host the
Winter X Games on Jan. 22-25.
stayed at Timberline Condo in Snowmass, where all we had
to do was walk out the door and down the length of the
building to the slopes, pop on our skis and whiz down to
the nearest lift. From there, the mountain was ours.
favorite runs? The glades around Garrett Gulch, where we
lost the crowds (which weren’t much to speak of anyway)
and wove among nicely scattered pine trees and moguls. We
also liked the runs around Sheer Bliss, and if you don’t
mind a little extra exertion, you can ride to the top of
Elk Camp lift, then hike up an extra 15 minutes with your
skis slung over your shoulders to access another sweet
run, Long Shot. Chances are the snow’ll be deeper and
fluffier there because most folks don’t make the effort.
real experts head to Burnt Mountain Glades, Hanging Valley
and the Cirque, where they can tackle vertigo-inducing
double black diamond runs, the toughest on the mountain.
The beginners stick to the slopes around the Elk Camp and
Alpine Springs lifts, and if you need even easier terrain,
head to neighboring Buttermilk, where your lift ticket is
doesn’t really have a town in the way that some ski
resorts are repurposed old mining towns. Nobody comes to
Snowmass for the nightlife, either. They head down the
road to Aspen for that.
fit right in here, though, and so do people like me, who
just want to ski as much as possible. And while there’s
not a big town, there’s still Snowmass Mall, a 1970s era
development with an array of restaurants, a smattering of
bars, gear shops, a liquor store and a few gift shops.
What more do you need?
the Village we liked the Stew Pot, operating since 1972,
where every day brings a new array of hearty soups and
stews (try the beef cabernet stew over mashed potatoes).
Head to Venga Venga for happy hour, where you can sit
outside warming your toes by the fireplace and sip a
margarita as you watch skiers cruise down the hill. For
dinner, check out the amazing Bia Hoi (recommended by a
shuttle bus driver) for Asian noodles served in a cool,
industrial atmosphere with iron and reclaimed wood tables
and communal dining.
resorts — the Westin Snowmass and the Wildwood Snowmass
— have undergone recent renovations. In the case of the
Wildwood, think 1960s ski lodge meets modern hipster cool.
Austin would approve. The Westin hosts a kid-friendly
singalong and s’mores twice a week.
the day, families can drop off little ones at the
Treehouse Kids Adventure Center for ski lessons and child
care. Friday evenings, everyone heads up the mountain to
Elk Camp for Ullr Nights, a celebration of the Norse god
of snow. That means ice skating, sledding, snow biking and
music. Party on.
there’s plenty of stuff for non-skiers to do here, too
— snowshoeing, nature programs, snowmobile rides and
free ice skating until 10 p.m. daily at the rodeo grounds
(bring your own skates.)
keep your eyes open.
telling when another mammoth will show up.
lift tickets at Snowmass cost $104 for adults and $70 for
children ages 7 to 12 (discounts for multiple days and
advance purchases) and are also good at Aspen, Aspen
Highlands and Buttermilk. For more information, go to
www.aspensnowmass.com. The Ice Age Discovery Center is
located at 54B Snowmass Village Mall; Bia Hoi is located
at 3101 Carriage Way, 970-429-8796; Venga Venga Cantina
and Tequila Bar is at 105 Daly Lane, 970-923-7777; and The
Stew Pot is at 62 Elbert Lane, 970-923-2263.